Friday, May 08, 2009

Gallows instore at Rough Trade East

Bank holiday Monday, 4 May, and today there is a free instore set and signing to further promote the launch of Gallows' second album Grey Britain. After working until about lunchtime, eating, showering, etc, the missus and I headed off in the car, London bound.

After parking just around the corner from the Old Blue Last, venue of the second of last December's two "East End Invasion" Gallows dates, we walked for a few minutes, arriving at Rough Trade's east London store at about 6pm. I located brother Dim, secured our wristbands, then ran off for a pee and a cup of coffee.

Back at the venue, a line had started to form. A pretty big one, too, but I spotted a bunch of buddies, and we hello'd and chitchatted while waiting for the doors to open. The rain was not welcomed by those young punksters who had arrived in T-shirts and/or short skirts, but with my leather jacket and woolly hat, I was all good. Sensible clothing ftw!

Once they let us in, I headed, uncharacteristically, towards the stage at the back of the venue. Ish. As it happened, I didn't stay just there very long, shunting slightly outwards from the pit. These hands are key to keeping a roof over my head!

As the band takes to the tiny stage, vocalist Frank tells us that they don't have a setlist and that they will play what is asked for by the crowd. This is a nice touch, and immediately the boys are inundated with requests. This process doesn't last long; soon written suggestions are the order of the day. And indeed some song choices, unsurprisingly, are overlooked altogether.

I was expecting only half a dozen songs, maybe, but was pleased that the set was a bit longer. Indeed, in terms of number of songs, this was the same length show as the first time I saw Gallows, slightly less than a year ago, at Chatham's Tap 'n' Tin.

The exact list of songs escapes me now, but I'm pretty sure it was all of the following, though not in that order. I love hearing "Gold Dust", even though it is so short, at just under 1 minute.

The new songs are already knitting seamlessly into the gig repertoire. The hard core of fans already know most, if not all, of the words, and the question/answer parts of the songs really lend themselves to the live environment.

YouTube user shambles247 (linked below) has footage of most of the set, wherein you can see that the stage didn't hold the band for long, and all except drummer Lee were in with the crowd for a good while.

Black Eyes
Death Voices
Abandon Ship
In the Belly of a Shark (+ Happy Birthday)
Gold Dust
The Riverbed
Orchestra of Wolves.

(Unheeded went: Six Years, Rolling with the Punches [a personal fave of mine], Party Hard [a cover of the Andrew WK song, which Gallows have performed live once or twice], The Vulture, Sick of Feeling Sick, and no doubt others that I didn't catch.)

Once the set was over, an orderly queue started to form at the front of the shop, where the band would be signing stuff for those in attendance.

My super deluxe copy of the album had not yet arrived, so I was in two minds whether to buy one here in order to participate in the signing, but I had taken my sleeve of CD single "In the Belly of a Shark", just in case. The aforementioned chaps obliged, along with Lags, Stu, and Steph.

It was then time to say ta-ra to the Gallows posse and head off with Red to have some dinner on London's Brick Lane, which is famed for its hundreds of Indian restaurants. Despite having lived in London for 10 years, neither of us has ever eaten there before, and it is difficult to choose a restaurant, to be honest, given that there is so much choice. It is also unappealing to have people stood at the door trying to beckon punters in, as though you are in some dodgy Spanish-island holiday resort.

We plumped for one that had no doorman -- though it later became clear that this was just serendipity and he was probably on a toilet break. He was there a-beckoning when we left anyway! The venue of choice was Poppadom's (sic).

We ordered veggie dishes (mushroom bhaji, sag aloo, tarka daal), rice, and naan, as well as a drink each, and the missus headed off to the loo. On her return, she said: "I hope the graffiti in the ladies' is wrong. It says the food took forever to come and was cold." Oh, bugger, we thought, we've chosen the worst restaurant on Brick Lane.

In fact, our food arrived pretty quickly and was a good temperature. Certainly it was warmer than when we get takeaways delivered back home. And you know what? It was good, too. Subsequently I have found another bad review online. Maybe we got lucky, but I really enjoyed the food there, and so did the wife.

All in all, a good end to a great evening!


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Friday, May 01, 2009

Gallows' Grey Britain album launch

Believe it or not, it's not every day I get invited to a band's album launch party and debut screening of the accompanying short film. But this week I was invited to exactly that, on 29 April 2009. And it only happened to be the band whose music I have listened to more than any other (by a long way) over the past year. The band I have seen live more times in the past year than any almost any other pro band in my life. (Only Manic Street Preachers beats this, over a 10-year period, give or take.) So, well, I had to go, didn't I?

The first part of the evening is the screening of the eponymous short film that accompanies the album Grey Britain. It will be released as a DVD in a special double pack with the CD on 4 May in the UK. I don't know whether it will be available in other territories, but that's what the global Internet marketplace is for, isn't it?

The venue for this screening is the Curzon Soho cinema, where many years ago, before my time, my missus had worked. This was a trip down memory lane for her!

I knew the movie would run about 30 minutes, but that's all I knew. I didn't expect it to be almost end-to-end music; in a way, I suppose I'd hoped there would be dialogue, too, and initially, for a handful of seconds upon this realization, I was disappointed. It's not long ago that I'd said to my other half that I thought frontman Frank Carter would probably make a good actor. If I ever get my arse back into film-making, maybe I'll drop him a line!

What we have here is almost a mini punk-rock opera. And as fucking weird as that idea sounds, it actually all holds together really well. The plot seems to be that a boy is raped and killed by someone who appears to be a priest (though he could be Death incarnate) in a London that has been overrun by heavy-handed riot police while da kidz are running scared underground. Cue much dark brooding photography, fighting in the streets, bricks and bats and blood -- all with a snarling six-song punk-metal soundtrack and bursts of the band in action... It is not only the band who might be surprised that Warner Bros Music actually agreed to foot the bill.

It looks fucking gorgeous, fair play (as the clip below shows), and if one could complain about anything, it might be that it's a shame more people won't get to see it on the big screen. I really feel very privileged to have been a part of that and look forward to getting my DVD next week. It might be broadly derivative of any number of shorter scenes you've seen in bleak-future movies, but it's done with a huge amount of style. Oh, and yeah, it's more than a little bleak. I won't give it a numeric score because I am too biased to be fair, either way.

After the screening, the missus and I chatted to some of the folks we have met before through seeing the band over the past year, and then we headed off to another of our old haunts back when we were Londoners: Melati restaurant on Peter Street. Man, the times we've eaten wonderful Malaysian food there... And it's just as good now as it was when I first went there some 16 years ago. Same staff too. Never been? Go, for the love of God!

The final part of the evening was a Gallows gig proper -- a full-length set at legendary club Madame Jojo's in the heart of Soho. I've never been there before, but again this is somewhere that my wife used to go regularly before my time, dancing the night away while grown men were paid to cavort in thongs for the punters' entertainment!

On arrival, the tiny venue was already pretty packed, but we were still able to secure what might, traditionally, be considered a good spot from which to view the action: against a balcony just to the left of the mixing desk, with the dancefloor sunk 6-8ft below us and the raised stage diagonally opposite. I say "traditionally" because one never really knows where Frank will actually end up singing from. I also had it on fairly good authority that they would be playing within the dancefloor/pit, rather than on the stage. I had also heard that they would be playing straight through the new album...

First up, we get "London Is the Reason" -- not the first track on the album (but I guess you could consider it so if you disregard the CD's prologue song "The Riverbank"). And from there on, we do indeed run through the album in order, omitting "The Vulture (Act I)", the acoustic version, as either Lags or Steph (I didn't catch who) jokingly said "I've left my acoustic guitar at home."

It's not long before Frank is more or less out of sight, on the same bit of balcony as me, but hidden behind taller, bigger spectators. He tells the throng that he's not getting down into the pit because everyone down there is so much bigger than him, though it's not long before he is indeed in there. And the rest of the band, except drummer Lee, is soon down there with him, while the crowd is politely asked to make some effort not to knock over the musicians while going about their circle-pitting, moshing, windmilling, and whatever else they want to throw into the mix!

After anti-knife-crime track "Queensberry Rules", we are treated to a couple of old faves. "In the Belly of a Shark" is first, and bassist Stu asks if he can do the first line. Rather than the usual guttural screamed a cappella four-word intro, then, we get Stu putting on his best plummy voice, announcing, "So, hear I lie," before the song kicks off proper. To repeat the refrain halfway through the song, Frank picks on his mother, who looks mortally embarrassed to have to do it. She does it, though -- inaudibly as far as the band goes. I think I heard it only because (a) I was about 10ft away from her and (b) because I could see her lips moving. "She did it!" Frank exclaims to the band, who seem to be wondering when their cue will come. He then asks her to do it again. She obliges, of course, and the song goes on.

And the set continues too, with the classic "Abandon Ship" before we return to the new album's tracklisting, with "Misery", which ends with the eminently singalongable chant, "Misery fucking loves us / And we love her too", and then "Crucifucks". As a final treat we get the time-honoured set-closer "Orchestra of Wolves".

It's been quite the night -- and quite the set. Although those of us who have seen Gallows a few times over the past year will have heard several of the new songs before, it's the first time, of course, that so many have been played in one gig. It was incredible to see just how many people were singing along, too, given that the album is not even out yet and has only been streamed on MySpace for a few days. One reviewer elsewhere also reckons that this room is made up of 70 per cent music-industry folk. You wouldn't have known it. I also wouldn't have known I'd be joining in a round of applause for Warner Bros Records. Crazy thing, rock 'n' roll.

I could watch this band every night. Each gig is completely unique, just the way it should be. What is the point in watching a band that do the same thing every night? Gallows are now out on tour till about December, I believe, taking in the Warped Tour in the US once the UK tour is over. Go and see them. And buy the album Grey Britain while you're at it. It's anthemic as fuck and a damn good ride.

Click the setlist image below to see my pictures from the night.

Gallows setlist

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